Every year, on the first Wednesday in February — national signing day — we all play the same game. Where would you go? How would you announce? It’s fun to put yourself in the shoes of an 18-year-old kid with the power to bring omnipotent head coaches to the brink of insanity.
But today the question is more specific. This video started it.
This is a question I think about a lot: Where would you go to college if you were making your decision based solely on how cool all the gear was? That means uniforms, helmets, sweat suits, sweatbands — everything. For the sake of clarity, let’s assume every major program gives its players as much gear as you see in that video above.
Here is a quick top 10.
1. Clemson. It’s not just because of that video. The key to Clemson’s dominance in the gear department is that it is working with two dominant colors. You’re not just getting a closet full of orange sweat suits, but also a closet full of purple ones. If Clemson only wore orange or only wore purple, it would still be enough to make the top 10. Wearing both makes them no. 1. (Related: Dabo Swinney has downplayed the purple in recent years, and that needs to end immediately.)
2. Oregon. Obviously. Oregon is Michael Vick in Madden 2004 when it comes to the uniform question. Choosing the Ducks is so easy it feels like cheating. It would be worth it for the neon green alone, but then Oregon also comes with jet black, silver, and, best of all, the Kelly green throwbacks with Puddles the Duck.
There is one major downside to Oregon, though. If you choose a school based on uniforms, you will look like an idiot to the outside world. It’s a perfectly reasonable approach, but you will still get judged by uptight adults the world over. In other words, if you’re really choosing a school based on uniforms, it shouldn’t be this obvious.
3. Auburn. Auburn is the choice for anyone who loves orange but would prefer to keep it a little more subtle than Clemson. Mix it in with navy blue instead of purple. Also, I’m not sure Under Armour gear was always cool — it used to feel like Nike’s trashy cousin — but Under Armour gear is definitely cool now. War Eagle.
4. Florida State. Gold is the only way to make all that maroon — nope, not calling it garnet — look cool. You’ll notice this list has no Alabama and no Oklahoma, because no matter how good you are, everyone looks stupid wearing maroon in public. But maroon with FSU gold? That can work, and when paired with a giant spear adorning everything, plus like 60 uniform combinations and a rich sweatband history, it’s all tough to resist.
5. Baylor. For the helmets alone.
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
6. TCU. Purple always wins. And honestly, TCU should probably be higher than Baylor. The Baylor helmets are great, but it wears that muted, rusty gold way too often. At TCU, you’re getting trucks’ worth of black-and-purple gear, and, just as important, you get to rock the Horned Frog logo on at least half of your accessories. No mascot on this list beats the Horned Frog. Not even Puddles.
7. USC. This is the classic look. It’s the jumpsuit you can wear to impress your interviewer when you don’t make the NFL and it’s time to take your talents to Wall Street. Living among their fans would be tough to put up with for four years, but if you’re going to USC, you just have to embrace all of it. Own the elitism. Draping yourself in endless amounts of gold Nike gear is a good start.
8. Marshall. I had to have one entry for all the mid-major recruits out there. There is only one acceptable choice, and it’s in Huntington, West Virginia. Bright green isn’t quite as great as bright orange, but it’s close, and it’s also more socially acceptable once you graduate college. Any adult who wears bright orange all the time is unbearable. Most importantly, Marshall comes in at a solid no. 3 among mascots here. There’s Puddles, the Horned Frog, and then … you can’t go wrong with a giant angry buffalo on half your wardrobe.
9. Texas. I know we’re assuming all college athletes get the same amount of gear, but that’s probably not how it works. Three schools on this list definitely get more: Oregon (obviously), Florida State (free shoes!), and Texas — the one program that’s richer than them all. Can you even imagine how many barely legal benefits Texas football players get? This is possibly why they’ve been terrible lately, but it’s also why it won’t matter if they struggle for 10 years while Baylor and TCU take over the state. At some point, the massive recruiting advantages will win out and power will revert to Austin. For now … Burnt orange isn’t as fun as Clemson or Auburn, but like Marshall green, it’s something you can wear for the rest of your life. And maybe Texas will be good again by the time you’re 30.
10. West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen coaches there, and that means you’re getting free gear and the option to spend all four years shirtless.
Honorable mention: Tennessee, Penn State, Florida, LSU, Arizona State, Michigan, Ohio State, Maryland, Georgia, Delaware.
UCLA. Seriously. Don’t sign your life away to Adidas.
Alabama. If you choose to spend four years playing for Nick Saban, you deserve a lifetime in maroon and houndstooth.
Mizzou. It’s like if the Steelers uniforms had a baby with the Bengals uniforms and decided “MIZ” would be the best name.
Miami. Really, this entire post was just an excuse to mourn what’s happened to Miami’s uniforms the past few years. And now it’s switching to Adidas? God help us all.
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images